Fiji Warriors prove too strong for Samoa A in the World Rugby Pacific Challenge 2016 final in Suva, while Tonga A claim third place ahead of Junior Japan.
Fiji Warriors scored five tries and 36 unanswered points against Samoa A to lift the World Rugby Pacific Challenge trophy in front of a 4,000-strong crowd at the ANZ Stadium in Suva on Monday.
Tonga A, meanwhile, reserved their best performance until last to take third place in a high-scoring game against Junior Japan which ended 44-30.
The Warriors ran out wearing black armbands in memory of the victims of Cyclone Winston and also as a mark of respect to former team-mate Bele Tabalala, who tragically passed away during last year’s tournament.
“This win today is for them,” declared Warriors captain Peni Ravai. “I’d also like to thank our fans for coming out in big numbers to support the team.”
Fiji scored twice before the break through a penalty try and a try from winger Lepani Raiyala to lead 16-0.
Fellow winger Nacani Wakaya (pictured) added a third after 54 minutes before two tries in the space of three minutes near the end from second-row Mataiasi Ucutabua and centre Frederick Hicks made for a final scoreline of 36-0.
Despite the defeat, Samoa A captain Greg Foe believes his side made progress over the past fortnight.
“I think we grew a lot as a team over the last two weeks especially with the new boys coming in from overseas. It’s been an awesome experience in Fiji,” he said.
Yasuda hat-trick in vain
Tonga A had enough in reserve to withstand the threat of Junior Japan and overturn their defeat to the same opposition earlier in the competition.
Atelea Moa’s third-minute try was followed by a brace of tries for fly-half Fe’ao Hui but winger Takuhei Yasuda kept Junior Japan in touch with two of his own.
Turning around 26-14 in arrears, Junior Japan struck the first blow of the second half when Yasuda completed his hat-trick three minutes after the restart. With Ryoyo Nakamura’s conversion, Junior Japan were back to within four points of the Islanders.
However, that was as close as they got as tries from centre Alfred Hausia and capatain and hooker Sione Lolohea put Tonga A 44-22 in front.
Junior Japan had the final say when awarded a penalty try in the final minute against a Tonga A side that had been reduced to 14 men following a yellow card to Lemeki Moala.
“We got better and our confidence grew with every game,” said Lolohea. “It was the first time that most of the players had been on tour or at a tournament like this.”
Photos: Bruce Southwick/Zoomfiji